Reader: I wrote in last spring about a boss with either dementia or a bad attitude ("Is angry boss a jerk or affected by senility?" ). I wanted to give you a postscript: He was eventually fired, and as it turns out, he could perform just fine. HR said his firing was due to "redundancy" and changing needs of the department, but it was pretty obvious he was doing zero work. He was, however, showing up and locking himself in the office all day.
After the boss was let go, my co-worker had the task of going through all his emails to figure out where the work was — and that's when it was discovered he had been writing a novel on company time. Worse, he emailed it to all of our freelancers for their "notes." Even worse (for him), he did it all on his work computer, so when he was immediately escorted out by security after being fired, he lost his notes.
In addition to the novel, there were about six months' worth of unpaid invoices and unanswered emails. The freelancers he wasn't paying on time were the same freelancers he was asking to read his novel.
So all the rage and moodiness and inability to remember anything were likely because his mind was engaged elsewhere. And some bluster to cover it up. I mistook entitlement for dementia.
Karla: Well. Someone notify Merriam-Webster that we have a new definition for “chutzpah.”
What can we take away from this update?
●Okay, so the compassion I recommended in my original response may have been misplaced in this case. But in general, it’s a good idea to give an employee with suddenly erratic behavior an opportunity to explain, or see if help is needed, in case there’s an underlying physical or mental condition that requires some kind of reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
●Even if an ADA-eligible cause had been identified, the ADA doesn’t protect an employee who’s unable to perform the essential functions of the job even with reasonable accommodations.
●Finally, while departure is a win for you and other abused colleagues, and for the person replacing your boss who actually wants to do the job, it might even be a blessing in disguise for the wannabe author himself. I’m reminded of an editorial staffer at a former employer of mine who, after being laid off, went on to focus on publishing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. His name was Edward P. Jones.
Of course, the more realistic scenario is that your former boss will end up seeking another daily-bread-winning job. In that case, let’s hope he figures out how to keep his work and his side hustle separate without making his colleagues’ lives difficult and unpleasant in the process. It’s a skill most folks in the gig economy have had to master, whether working multiple jobs out of economic necessity or juggling vocation and avocation for personal fulfillment.
PRO TIP: Seems obvious, and yet it happens: Don’t use your work computer or any other work resources for anything you don’t want your employer to know about.